Monday, February 4, 2013

Batman in the 1970s Part 56: May and June 1978

by Peter Enfantino
& Jack Seabrook

Batman 299 (May 1978)

"The Island of Purple Mist!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by John Calnan and Dick Giordano

Batman confronts Baxter Baines and they knock out a trio of crooks together. Baines reveals that he has been trying to make Batman's identity public because it was on a list of things he had set for himself to do to combat boredom. Batman realizes that all of the clues apply equally to Baines himself and broadcasts a fifth one: that Batman's real initials are B.B. Baines fears for his life from the criminals of Gotham City. Meanwhile, assassins from the Crimson Coffin cult try to kidnap Baines but fail. When they return to their underground lair, their priestess announces that their leader will be sacrificed while dressed as Batman, along with Aldrich, who was scheduled to die last issue. Batman arrives after it appears that one crook has been killed. A fiery conflagration ends the reign of the cult. Batman explains to Commissioner Gordon that it was all part of an elaborate scheme involving illegal immigrants and a note from Baxter Baines reports that he has fled the country!

PE: A disappointing conclusion to what I considered David V. Reed's finest hour (thus far), this chapter is meandering and confusing as all hell. Is Baxter Baines a new character? X-Girl is given short shrift, which is sad since she's a real peach as drawn by Calnan and Giordano!

Jack: The X-Girl is surely the highlight of this issue. I get a strong feeling that Giordano had to do a lot of the heavy lifting with this issue's art, since it looks much more like his work (especially the drawings of Batman) than Calnan's. The plot is utterly confusing and when I wrote the above synopsis I hope I got it as straight as possible! Sales figures for 1977 are published in this issue and Batman sold an average of 148,219 copies that year.

We would save her!

Detective Comics 477 (June 1978)

(A Little Talk with Rupert Thorne)
Story by Len Wein
Art by Marshall Rogers and Dick Giordano

Batman visits Boss Thorne in his cell at Arkham Asylum, wanting to know why the mobster gave it all up when it was in the palm of his hand. Thorne tells Batman he had no choice as the ghost of Hugo Strange wouldn't let him be. Commissioner Gordon comments that someone as strong-minded as Batman would never be taken in by "ghosts." Batman wonders aloud if that's the case as he remembers a past adventure that concerned a haunted house. Meanwhile, in the Bowery, something sinister is taking place.

PE: Pretty hard to review something that's three pages and change. It looks, from this small sampler, that Dick Giordano will fit in quite nicely though.

Jack: I was very impressed by these pages, as short as the frame is, and they made a nice contrast to the reprint.

"The House That Haunted Batman"
Story by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman
Art by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano
(a reprinting of Detective #408)

PE: In the "We Done Dodged a Bullet" Department: according to a small item in The Comic Reader #153 (February 1978), Len Wein and David V. Reed were all set to swap titles. "No big deal," sez you? Well, that means that Reed would have been scripting Marshall Rogers and Dick Giordano. No thanks! I'll take my chances with Wein on this title. The following issue (#154, March 1978) saw a mention that Reed would be, instead, swapping jobs with Denny O'Neil, who was working on The Batman Family. In the end, neither came to pass. Stay tuned for details. In the "Ain't We Seen This Before?" Department, we get this issue's reprinting of a story originally published in the February 1971 issue of 'tec. The rerun was as a result of Marshall Rogers's troubles making a deadline. I don't know about you but, considering the run of classics Rogers pumped out during his short stay on this title, I can live with a bump in the road now and then.

Jack: This was a great story the first time around and it's still great, even edited and with reproduction not as good as the original. The Adams art is brilliant, as usual, and it's neat that they were able to dig through the files and find a story that Len Wein had worked on now that he's back at DC. Sales figures for 1977 on Detective are in this issue--average monthly sales were 125,143. With this issue, Detective reverts back to bi-monthly status.

Batman 300 (June 1978)

"The Last Batman Story --?"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano

At an unspecified date in the future, the adult Robin stands guard while a young woman is brought to the hospital in critical condition.  A sudden attack on the airport terminal by a flying cannon is met with equally forceful opposition by Batman, who fights some crooks but is surprised to see their leader, a man colored blue, explode. Robin tells Batman the story of a man who had approached him at a dinner party wanting to buy one of his antique cars. Robin declined and the man threatened him; soon after, he began to receive prisms in the mail just as factories belonging to Wayne International were destroyed. Intelligence operative Annie Morgan was asked to investigate and sent Robin mysterious clues before disappearing.

Batman and Robin follow the clues and infiltrate an organization called Spectrum, whose members are designated by the various colors of the rainbow. After they destroy the syndicate, Bruce Wayne confides in Dick Grayson that he is considering a run for governor, marriage to his girlfriend, and retirement from his long life as a crime fighter.

PE: I usually hate these "imaginary Batman tales," but this one's a little special. It's not The Dark Knight Returns but it's a low-budget ancestor with a lot of special effects thrown in for good measure. As much complaining as I do about David V. Reed, it does me good to howl out to the stars when he finds the right note. "The Last Batman Story--?" is much more complex than anything Reed has attempted in past issues. He seems to be having a ball with the extra pages, using them to flesh out these future versions of old friends. In the big action set pieces, Simonson and Giordano seem to have studied Sir Kenneth Adam's sets for the Bond films. In fact, the whole story has a Bond feel to it. Yeah, as usual I could scratch my head at the DC time-vortex and wonder how it could be so far into the future and yet Alfred's still wandering the halls of Wayne Manor, trays filled with caviar and cucumber sandwiches. From a grown-up Dick Grayson (now married, with twins, and running Wayne Enterprises) to a gone-grey Bruce Wayne (wearing a bolo!), check your brain at the door and just enjoy it. I issued a hearty guffaw at the following exchange between Batman and Robin:

Batman: If they're using sonic detection, we'll register as a passing flight!
Robin: And if they've got radar?
Batman: You would bring that up!

Great ending too, but I was surprised Reed left us dangling with the mention of the whereabouts of The Riddler without a follow-up. I thought for sure, since The Riddler was the only member of The Rogues left unaccounted for, he'd have had something to do with all the intrigue.

Jack: I liked the Simonson/Giordano art and all of the little touches in this story, but the main plot was David V. Reed's usual mess. Bruce Wayne is grey at the temples and Robin is all grown up and has a new outfit. This outfit looks awfully familiar, and I wonder if it's one that readers suggested a few years back? (Check out our writeup on Batman 259 here--there are similarities!) The scene where they speak with Gordon via Skype (though not called that yet) is neat, especially seeing Gordon in retirement writing his memoirs. It's a nice touch to have Dick's kids named Bruce and James, but I would have liked to find out who his wife is and who Bruce's girlfriend is! This is definitely a fun issue and I think it recalls some of the DC stories of the '50s and '60s a little bit, what with all the emphasis on colors and the futuristic trappings.

Time to go shopping on eBay again!


mikeandraph87 said...

I loved the possible future of Dick Grayson as Robin possibly married to Barbara Gordon and Bruce Wayne retiring to run for Governor and possible marrying Selina Kyle? A not so bleak future and the characters I like best all fighting the good fight still and yet manage to settle down too.

Batman#298 and #299 was an odd sci-fi mystery just like the sci-fi spy espionge we were given in Batman#281-#283 was a bit confusing. Decent stories,but only Morrison should confuse readers.haha.

Jack Seabrook said...

So you think Dick married Batgirl? interesting thought. I know Batman married Catwoman on Earth Two so why not on Earth One? Peter is going to be so confused---

mikeandraph87 said...

It read that way in the dialouge. It was not just my wishful thinking but the way Bruce and Dick talked that he was married to Barbara and Bruce was going to marry Selina. It never said point blank for either but was suggested.

The reason Bruce will not get married in regular conitnuity is becuase it messes with stories like people claimed having Superman and Spider-Man married does nad its easier to tell stories of a bachelor. Maybe so and the fact Bruce Wayne's punlic persona being that of a playboy while Bruce is a broding loner who has no time to commit to romance with his nightly dangers. That is why. Though I like the idea of Bruce marrying Selina and Dick marrying Barbara. It will never happen,but it brings hope and some fun to Gotham if done. IMGo anyway.